Mass Appeal 1943

Sunday, Oct. 13, 4pm | St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 
2200 San Joaquin Hills Road, Newport Beach

Following the performance John Forsyte, President of the Pacific Symphony, will lead and moderate a discussion.

There no charge to attend this performance. Donations are welcome.


This one-act play with music imagines the meeting between conductor Ravi Schächter and the Jewish Council of Terezín in 1943 when Schächter wanted the Council’s blessing to permit his choir to perform Verdi’s Requiem in the Jewish ghetto. For Schächter, the performance would be a powerful and life-affirming act of resistance against Nazi efforts to dehumanize the Jews. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, ART WOW/Bare Bones Theatre, the Defiant Requiem Foundation, and Orange County’s Pacific Symphony and its Joshua’s Horn Society. With partial funding from the Weissman Arts Grant of Jewish Community Foundation Orange County and Jewish Federation & Family Services.

More background:

In the early 1940s while a prisoner in the Terezín concentration camp in the Czech Republic, pianist, composer and conductor Rafael Schächter organized his fellow prisoners into a choir as a way to lift their spirits and offer them hope amidst punishing captivity, hunger and despair.

Schächter led his choir in performing a variety of popular and original music, but even more courageously, he also taught them to sing Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem.  The singers learned the Requiem by rote using repetition and memorization from a single score that Schächter had brought to Terezín from Prague.

When Schächter felt that his choir was ready to perform the Requiem, he met with Terezín’s Jewish Council of Elders for its blessing. The Council was, at first, not supportive of Schächter’s proposal. After all, Verdi was Catholic and the Requiem a religious mass dedicated to the death and afterlife of an Italian writer. But Schächter saw it differently. To him and his choir, performing the Requiem in Terezín was a powerful and life-affirming act of resistance against Nazi efforts to dehumanize the Jews.

Conductor and President/Creative Director of the Defiant Requiem Foundation, Murry Sidlin, has written a play imagining the meeting between Schächter and the Jewish Council. This moving work, titled MASS APPEAL 1943, offers an insight into the controversy surrounding the performance of the Requiem and the fear and oppression by the Nazis of the Jewish community in Terezín.

Ultimately, Schächter’s choir sang the Requiem sixteen times. The last performance was before German officials and the International Red Cross in June 1944. Following their final performance, Schächter and most of his chorus members were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they perished, silencing their voices forever.

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